I met with a Yak Blanket merchant of Kathmandu today. He was one of the more prominent ones. His name is Mr. Sabin and my friend Bhim refers to him as the cheeky fellow. The Yak blanket merchant and I have done business before. He is both a showman and a master salesman and I agree with my friend Bhim. He is a cheeky fellow.
Yes I am back in Nepal. I flew here from Delhi this evening. It is only a short hop. I am spending the weekend with my friend Bhim I am in one of my favourite cities in my very favorite of countries.
Words alone are insufficient to express how delighted I am to be here.
This is a photo I took with my Blackberry earlier. It is from the plane en route to Kathmandu from Delhi. You will think that you are just looking at the normal bank of clouds that you always see when you are flying above 30,000 feet in the sky but look closer. There is a peak pushing through the clouds. It is the peak of the mountain the Nepalese call Sagamartha. It is Mount Everest. It is the highest place on the planet.
I have bought many yak blankets from Nepal. I have bestowed them as gifts for all my loved ones for years. They are bright and colorful and are adored by those that have them. They are soft and are very warm. We have also sold Yak blankets for our charity back in Singapore. We sold them very successfully in fact. They sold like hot cakes. That was why I was back. I was back to have a yack about yak with the Merchant.
To an Australian having a yack means having a chat. It is slang for friendly conversation and it's origins are completely unknown.
Negotiations with the Yak merchant are lengthy and elaborate. He is sharp and witty and very crafty. Here is a picture of him and I together just after we concluded a deal. The deal concerned the purchase of a rare albino baby yak blanket - by me. I have been in negotiations with Mr. Sabin regarding this blanket for a number of years.
The Yak blanket merchant's shop is four stories tall and the wooden stairs are steep. They are ancient and creaking and worn. I too am ancient and creaky and worn. The ceilings of the rooms in Mr. Sabin's store are so low that I have to stoop when I stand inside. My friend Bhim and the merchant and I sat on little wooden stools while Mr. Sabin gathered his merchandise around him.
Here is a picture of me and Bhim out the front of the Yak Blanket store. Mr. Sabin is on the upper floor. - he is sitting in the window and waving.
The Yak merchant and I have been negotiating for more than two years about a rare albino baby yak blanket that he owns. We have been jousting on price. I asked Mr. Sabin if he still had it and he grinned slyly and suggested that he might. I asked if I could once again see it and he shrugged his shoulders. He told me that if he did still have it then it would be worth even more than the last time I had seen it. When I told him that with the global financial crisis still raging I would have expected it to have come down significantly in price. He roared in laughter and slapped his knees and then he clapped his hands and a tiny Nepalese woman who was in the room scampered up the stairs.
The tiny Nepalese lady returned a mere moment later and she was clutching a bundle wrapped in blue plastic. I had seen this bundle before. In it was the rare albino baby yak blanket. The Yak blanket merchant snatched the bag from the tea lady and he carefully unwrapped the blue plastic bundle.
Yes it was the same blanket.
Imagine if you can the softest material that you have ever felt. It would not compare to the softness of this baby yak blanket. It is opulent and extravagant and it is magnificent. The wool of the baby albino yak is rare. The blanket that has been made from it is untouched by any dye and it is gorgeous.
It really is.
I told Mr. Sabin that my day had been long and it was time now for our negotiations regarding the sale of the blanket to be concluded. He solemnly agreed. He then immediately threw an outrageous number at me in US dollars. It was much more than the last amount that I had refused in our previous encounter earlier this year. I withered him with a discontented scowl and threw a number a third of that back his way. We chipped away in small increments at a furious pace before I sighed and bowed my head. I confessed to Mr. Sabin that I must accept that a thing of such beauty was beyond my means. I cast him a furtive glance and muttered my thanks then I shook his hand and I rose to leave. At this point Mr. Sabin asked me what was my absolute top dollar for the blanket and I told him that it was less than half of what he wanted.
I was three steps down the stairs before Mr. Sabin wailed his agreement. The baby albino yak blanket is now finally mine.
It has been a long wait.